Would you like a budget, surplus rifle that’s both versatile and offers a lot of neat history? You may want to check out the SKS in 7.62x39mm.
The SKS is a lesser known Soviet Cold War-era rifle, mainly because it was greatly overshadowed by the AK-47 and its subsequent variations.
The SKS was originally designed at the end of World War II. Believe it or not, it actually saw extremely limited service at the end of the Second World War as well on the Eastern Front. During this time, many military were coming to realize that the era of the bolt action rifle as a frontline infantry standard issue rifle was coming to an end. The United States had already fully transitioned to the M1 Garand in .30-06, the Germans were attempting to replace their Mauser 98k rifles with the Gewehr 43 and STG-44 automatic rifles, and the Soviets themselves had experimented with the SVT-38 and SVT-40 semi-automatic rifles before being forced to switch back to the Mosin Nagant bolt action when the Axis armies invaded.
Furthermore, militaries around the world were starting to realize that the era of the full-power rifle caliber was also coming to an end. The .30-06 Springfield, 8mm Mauser, .303 British, and 7.62x54r calibers were coming to an end as major calibers. Instead, armies were preparing to transition over to lighter weight, intermediate calibers instead.
The 7.62x39mm Soviet round, which is ballistically very similar to a .30-30 Winchester, was developed as a result for the SKS rifle. Eventually, within a few years the round would also be used for the upcoming AK-47 rifle. It was the AK-47 that largely supplanted the SKS, which only saw limited frontline use with Soviet forces after the war. That’s because the SKS accepted stripper clips or required to be loaded individually, while the AK-47 accepted detachable box magazines that could be reloaded much faster. Furthermore, the AK-47 had a much larger magazine capacity of 30 rounds, versus ten rounds for the SKS.
Simply put, by the 1950s the SKS was already an obsolete rifle. As a result, the Soviet Union began to distribute the rifle to their allies who needed a semi-automatic frontline service weapon. The result was the North Koreans, North Vietnamese, and numerous Eastern Bloc militaries were issued the SKS in large numbers. American forces encountered the rifle in the hands of the enemy in large numbers during the Korean and Vietnam war.
The SKS is still seeing action in armed conflicts around the world today, such as the Syrian Civil War. But for the most part, it has largely been withdrawn from frontline service.
That being said, one area where the SKS has found a large audience is in the hands of American shooters as a surplus rifles. Surplus military rifles are hugely popular with American gun owners because of their durability, quality (after all, they are military grade), accuracy, cost-effective ammo, cheap prices, and lots of neat history that they come with.
The SKS is one such rifle. Prices on the SKS have been going up in recent years as demand increases and the supply begins to dry up. The result is that they can actually be a good investment.
Previously, such as back in the 1980s or 1990s, it was easy to find an SKS to buy for under $100. Today, they will run you around $300 to $400 at the very least, and the prices are only going to continue to rise.
The SKS is a very versatile rifle for many reasons. It is very durable and well made, surprisingly accurate (more accurate than the AK-47), and the 7.62x39mm round is cheap and easy to find. As mentioned previously, it also has ballistics very similar to the .30-30 Winchester, and will be more than sufficient for bringing down medium size game such as deer or wild boar.
The SKS is commonly cited as being an excellent all-around survival rifle, or a rifle that you could use if you ever had to bug out into the woods and use it for hunting and defensive or tactical uses alike. The short size overall will also prove itself to be highly valuable to you as well.
Of course, the SKS is not without its downsides. It commonly feeds via stripper clips that are slow to reload, even though magazine versions are also available.
Furthermore, the SKS is not as much of a steal now as it used to be. For the $300 to $500 that you may have to pay for one, one could argue that you might as well purchase an AR-15 that are often available on a budget for a similar price as well, such as those made by DPMS, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, or Del-Ton.
All in all, there’s no denying that the SKS is an important piece of firearms history. Even if you have no practical or functional use for one, you could still seek to purchase one just for its history value alone.